You have just been involved in an automobile collision that was not your fault. Your car is all banged up; you are hurt; you are probably worried about many of the consequences this collision has now created, and as the expression goes: “this just wasn’t a good time for this kind of thing”. There are 101 things racing through your mind. Certainly, the last thing you need is to worry about finding a good attorney to handle matters for you. Hopefully, this article will give you a leg up on making that search a bit easier, by allowing you to know what to look for, and by allowing you to know what questions to ask.
Plan of action to solve the problem: find an attorney to help!
Finding an attorney is easy. Finding the right attorney might be a little tougher. First, understand that there is nothing immediately critical about hiring an attorney. I recommend, however, that you do so within 2 – 3 days of the collision. In this fashion, you can avoid being hassled by insurance adjusters, and an intelligent course of action for you and your case can be formulated. Back to finding that attorney. If you have a good case, there are hundreds of attorneys who will be thrilled to work for you. I would be less than honest if I didn’t admit that legal fees for “personal injury” cases can be very handsome. Such fees for the right attorney, however, are well worth it. Read on, and you’ll see why.
You should be able to recognize a sincere appreciative attitude on the part of the attorney you select. Again, there are hundreds of attorneys who’d be very happy to have you as a client. If the attorney you select isn’t one of them, find one who is. That attorney will work very hard for you. Keep reading, and I’ll help you learn how to pick the right attorney.
The Initial Stages and the first contact.
Your car is in need of repair, you are in need of medical treatment, and your ability to go to work at this point is in doubt, both because you now lack transportation, and because you don’t feel physically able to do so. Insurance adjusters are calling. What should you do? A good attorney can tell you. A good attorney will also find out many important things, such as: did the police investigate? was the other party given a ticket? who is the other guy? is there insurance? is there enough insurance? Again, a good attorney will advise you about what to do, and find out the answers to all of these questions. You need to concentrate on getting better. Investigating these matters and spending hours on the telephone are the last things on the doctor’s prescription pad for you.
Good attorneys can be found in many places. If you don’t know anyone who has used an attorney for a personal injury matter, there is probably a local bar association referral service. If there isn’t, or if they’re not open and you want contact now, internet search engines will offer the names and website addresses of all types of attorneys, from single practice attorneys up to large firms. I encourage a good look at the lawyer’s or the law firm’s website: read about their experience and see if the website “speaks to you.” I do not recommend telephone book ads to find a lawyer, nor do I recommend television ads, because really, they don’t tell you much. Once you select an attorney or two or three to interview, don’t jump without asking a lot of questions, no matter where the attorney’s name came from.
The first call to the attorney’s office.
You select an attorney and you want to call him or her. Pay attention to several things: Is the number you are calling advertised as 24 Hours? If so, who answers the call? Is it a tape? Is it the staff? Is it the attorney? Any may be acceptable, but clearly, you should be looking to talk to the attorney within a reasonable time if that first call doesn’t get you connected to him or her. Next, should you call “off-hours”, or wait until business hours Monday through Friday, 9 – 5? My feeling is that an attorney who practices personal injury law must recognize that potential clients are calling, often very traumatized, often very confused, and often in need of some good solid advice. Accordingly, that attorney should be available whenever the potential client calls. So you call, and you are generally pleased. The attorney sounded okay and invites you to his or her office for an appointment. Before you go in, ask some questions:
How long has the attorney been in practice? You want someone with experience.
What percentage of the attorney’s caseload involves handling personal injury matters? It should be over 50%.
Does the attorney regularly go to court and try cases involving personal injury matters? Yes is the only acceptable answer.
Is the attorney accessible? Get a commitment that you’ll be able to speak to the attorney if you want to, within a reasonable time, every time you want to. Promise to respect the attorney’s off-hours privacy, but ask if the attorney will give you a home telephone number for emergencies.
Will you be kept informed of all significant developments? This means that you’ll routinely get copies of important correspondence and that you will be consulted before decisions beyond the mere routine occur.
How money is handled? Don’t be shy about asking about this!! This is the primary reason you are hiring an attorney. Think about it… The mechanic is going to fix your car. The doctor will get you back to good health… You’ll certainly ask them questions… The attorney is the person who will help get you the money from the other guy’s insurance company to pay for all of this!